The optical properties of the thin metalized polymer films that are projected for solar sails are likely to be affected by the damaging effects of the space environment, but their real degradation behavior is to a great extent unknown. The standard solar sail force models that are currently used for solar sail mission analysis and design do not take these effects into account. In this paper we use a parametric model to describe the sail film's optical degradation with its environmental history to estimate the impact of different degradation behaviors on solar sail mission performance for some example interplanetary missions: Mercury rendezvous missions, fast missions to Neptune and to the heliopause, and artificial Lagrange-point missions.
- solar sails
- propulsion systems